The asteroid Lutetia lies almost directly in the plane of the ecliptic approximately 230 million miles from the sun, on average. It was discovered in 1852 by the German-French painter, astronomer and polymath Hermann Goldschmidt, who discovered it not long after purchasing a telescope he financed by selling paintings of Galileo produced on a recent trip to Florence. Although he originally believed that he had discovered a new planet, he soon confirmed that it was indeed an asteroid and named it after the Roman name for the city that eventually became Paris: Lutetia Parisiorum, named for the Gallic tribe the Parisii who first inhabited the island later known as Île de la Cité.
In July of 2010 the French spacecraft the Rosetta passed approximately 1800 miles away from Lutetia and took several hundred high resolution photographs, mostly of the north pole of the asteroid. Lutetia is a medium sized asteroid, somewhat egg shaped, 100 kilometers in diameter and 120 kilometers in diameter along its longest axis. In March 2011 the International Astronomical Union agreed to a naming system for Lutetia’s features, allowing them to be named for regions, cities and rivers in Roman Gaul: Baetica, Achaia, Etruria, Narbonensis, Noricum, Pannonia, and Raetia.
Close up image of Lutetia and image of crater cluser on Lutetia by ESA 2011 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.
Orbit of Lutetia courtesy NASA/JPL, used with permission.